Hitting Pause on Your Internal Problem Solver
Many of us have an internal problem solver that likes to identify a problem and fix it as soon as possible – preferably before anyone (including ourselves) notices that something is wrong.
The problem with this efficient little system is that we are often too quick to jump at fixing the problem. Have you ever had a friend jump in to fix one of your problems before you even get a chance to finish explaining what you are feeling? Our brains do the exact same thing to us. It can feel uncomfortable to sit in the discomfort, so the moment something doesn’t feel right, our brains jump in to fix it.
At the first sign of discomfort, we start searching for what is wrong and why. This can be very helpful but becomes problematic when we start focusing on the ‘why’. Questioning why gives us information about where some of our feelings may be coming from, but it leads us astray when we still aren’t 100% sure on what we are feeling. Focusing on why we are feeling a certain way can lead us to criticize and analyze our life, decisions, and circumstances. This can become an efficient source of avoidance of the actual feeling. Focusing on what a feeling is telling us allows us to feel it and release it over time. Focusing on why we are feeling something allows us to detach from the feeling and turn on our analytical brain.
Avoiding feelings can initially feel good, but overtime creates a buildup. Avoidance can look differently for everyone. Avoidance can be any behaviour that we use to pull ourselves away from an uncomfortable emotion. Some examples of avoidance could be playing video games, scrolling the internet or social media, consuming substances such as drugs or alcohol, and gambling. Additional examples of numbing could include eating, sleeping, and sampling checking out when in social situations.
Next time you notice discomfort, refrain from asking why and just sit with WHAT. What is it that I am feeling? Can I name it? Where do I feel it in my body? What thoughts am I attaching to this feeling? What is this feeling telling me?
Allowing ourselves to sit with our feelings a while longer can allow us to properly process what we are feeling before we move ahead to analyzing why we feel this way and start planning for ways to avoid ever feeling this discomfort again.
Try this with a friend or a spouse. The next time someone vents to you or comes to talk to you about a problem, try focusing on the feelings they are describing instead of moving directly to offering a solution.
Shannon Baustad, MC, is experienced in many areas such as anxiety, depression, and relationships, plus many more. For more information on Shannon and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.